There are times where I get the feeling there must be a higher power that doesn’t want me to drink. A couple of instances come to mind. The first happened in the fall of 1978. I was with my girlfriend (now wife) KM, and two friends, Owen and David. We had bought some beer and I was waiting to pull back out onto the four-lane highway.
Traffic was heavy and cars were coming fast. I saw an opening and put the gas pedal to the floor of my father’s 1975 Grand Prix. As I lurched forward we heard a loud grinding sound below. “That didn’t sound good,” Owen said as I drove away.
At the next light, a car pulled up to my right and the guys in it were yelling at us. Our windows were up and I was about to roll them down when Owen said, “He’s calling you a jack-ass!” (Which he wasn’t but probably should have been.)
So we responded, as young males will when they feel they’re being threatened by other young males. The light turned green and the guys in the other car just shook their heads and drove away. At the next light another car pulled next to us and I saw the driver frantically waving at me.
What’s the deal tonight? I wondered as I rolled down my window.
“You’re leaking gas!” he yelled.
“Must have been that noise we heard back there,” Owen said.
We left the intersection and I drove fast, trying to make it home before running out of fuel. Dave screamed from the back seat that he was sitting above the tank and wanted to switch with someone. There were no takers. Owen told everyone not to throw out a cigarette while I imagined all the different ways my Dad was going to kill me. KM just sat silently in her seat, probably wondering if dating me was really her best option.
We made it to my house without exploding. My father didn’t murder me, though I still believe he wanted to, and likely would have many times over the years had it not been for Mom’s interventions. The repair of the tank cost me $75.00.
Fast forward four decades when I was again leaving another liquor store after buying a bottle of wine. Before pulling out I looked to my left and saw the cars of rush hour sitting impatiently at the stoplight. Their light turned green, but I had an opening and slammed the shift of my car into drive and punched the gas. There was plenty of room between the cars and me but they were closing fast.
A split second later, I heard a familiar, sickening sound of cement against steel. Whoops. My car didn’t even make it completely into the lane of traffic before shutting down. I tried to start it again and again, but no go. Behind me, the homebound working class cursed my existence as they came to a sudden stop.
Cars pulled around me into the left lane where they could pass and one SUV driver angrily honked his horn, as if my plan that morning had been to stop rush hour traffic by stalling my car. Then a woman was knocking on my passenger window.
“You’re leaking gas!” she yelled.
“I know, I know. I’m a jackass,” I said.
Then some good Samaritans, with no help from the guy in the SUV, came and pushed me back to the parking lot, where I waited 45 minutes for AAA. The tow truck driver took my wounded car away and I called KM to come get me. She is still laughing about it.
The next day my mechanic fixed my ripped fuel filter for $60, which was $15 cheaper than the incident in 1978. So I had that going for me.